Dining Room Lecture

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I've said so many times oh I want to be like that but that is not his teaching his teaching is to be completely like this for you to be completely like this and for you to be completely like this and for me to be completely like this what is this what is it that is here needs its full expression from me this this is is my study I want to read you again a little one of Suzuki Roshi's talks from this book not always so this is when probably many of you are familiar with Zen mind beginners mind which was a book of Suzuki Roshi's early talks how many of you know Zen mind beginners mind that book is a series of lectures that


he gave to some people practicing in Los Altos in someone's living room often there were two or three people present at the talks that he gave but one of them the first news house it was recorded the talks and then she transcribed them and then one of Roshi's close students Trudy Dixon edited them for publication and those talks which were given often to just two or three people are still inspiring people when it was published about 67 8 somewhere in there for 40 years you know it it keeps being it's it's been in print constantly since then and it's been published in 14 or 15 languages but there were just Suzuki Roshi talking to


people who wanted to practice and his encouraging words helping them practice he went down to Los Altos once a week and talked with him he came to Berkeley once a week and talked with us he went to Mill Valley once a week and talked to people in Bill Kong's group and twice a week he talked to people that didn't Sukoji temple so he gave five Dharma talks a week week after week and I remember his his widow Suzuki Oksan, Suzuki Mitsu Oksan saying that he used to work so hard on his talks and we sit there working and she said to him once why do you work so hard on those talks nobody ever comes and and he said well it doesn't matter if it's one person or a hundred people I


have to do my best he was very very dedicated to bringing Dogon Senji's teaching to us he studied long he continued to study after he left after university and after he left Eheiji he continued to study with his teacher Kishizawa Ion until Kishizawa Ion's death and then he came here soon after that and Kishizawa Ion was was one of the great Dogon Senji scholars of the 20th century some of you don't know Dogon Senji, Dogon Senji was a 13th century monk in Japan who wanted to get the true Dharma so he sailed to China to find the true Dharma and and he met a teacher there and he


he had this burning question that if we're Buddha from the beginning if all beings are Buddha why do we need to practice and that was the question that kind of drove his search finally he came to the conclusion after meeting his teacher in in China Tendon Yojo he came to the conclusion that practice and enlightenment are not two that practice is the practice of enlightenment that's all it's just what an awakened person does is practice so that from the beginning we are already Buddha we're practicing to find how to express Buddha in our life how to express Buddha in this


moment not some just vague in our life but in this moment how do we express our awakening how do we express our intimate inter-being with all beings in this moment and what hinders us so in this talk these talks in in the in this book not always so are talks that Suzuki Roshi gave later after Zen Center had become larger after we had Tassajara actually and probably as a matter of fact after we also had the city center so the last couple of years of his life these talks were made so he says when you live completely in each moment without expecting anything you have no idea of


time when you are involved in an idea of time today tomorrow or next year selfish practice begins various desires start to behave mischievously you may think you could get you should get ordained or you worry about what your next step will be trying to become someone else you lose your practice and lose your virtue when you are faithful to your position or your work your true being is there this is a very important point without any idea of time your practice goes on and on moment after moment you become you yourself this practice is not so easy you may not be able to continue it even for one period of meditation you will need to make a big effort then you can practice extending this feeling moment after moment


eventually it will extend to your everyday life now there's that big effort again you know i mentioned the other day um he's talking about teacher and disciple making big effort to find out how to be teacher and disciple and i mentioned that something that really caught my ear when i heard him talk once was his saying zen is making your best effort on each moment forever oh my and i also mentioned my big koan my main koan for about 20 years because he also said practice with no gaining idea practice with no goal-seeking mind


practice is making your best effort on each moment forever with no gaining idea what kind of effort do you make with no gaining idea what is that so i offer that to you that was my koan for 20 years i offer it to you make of it what you will but i just see here's here's this you must make a big effort again it pops up in talk after talk then you can practice extending this feeling moment after moment eventually it will extend to your everyday life the way to extend your practice is to expose yourself as you are without trying to be someone else now that's a very interesting point how often do we see someone whom we much admire


and so i love you like that you know we try to imitate them you know we try to be like them and what does that say about about what this jewel is we're just going to throw away this jewel and try to make a cheap imitation of that jewel that's actually not our job our job is to how to be completely this jewel but i know that i get caught in that as someone who you know someone who is a very dynamic speaker and gives wonderful dharma talks you know i compare myself to them and maybe i studied harder could i do that or you know they have such a wonderful way with words and i forget about well what do i know what can i share of the dharma that i know from my own experience


how can i share this being that i am rather than trying to make a cheap imitation of someone else who looks kind of bright and shiny to me um do you ever do that i think it's not so unusual so how can you be just this one as it is how can you present this one as it is on each moment so when you are very honest with yourself and brave enough you can express yourself fully whatever people may think it's all right just be yourself at least with your teacher that is actual practice your actual life


unless you trust your teacher this is rather difficult but if you find out that your teacher's spirit is the same as your spirit then you will be brave enough to continue practicing in this way you know as we train in this tradition we are put into more and more positions of responsibility we we sort of change change positions all the time and you know someone will be like head of the zendo over here for a year and then it's someone else's turn to put themselves in that position and it's her turn to put herself in a different position um so we get very exposed to people they they you know we can't hide there's no place to hide or uh one of the things about being ordained as uh as a monk is i mean just the very symbolic thing of shaving the hair


and putting on monk's clothes is exposing yourself no place to hide just right out here um and then if you're a monk for a while then you get asked to sit in the first seat and bishu so and then you really get exposed because you have to you have to be with each student in the practice period spending time with them you have to ring the wake-up bell and clean the toilets and you have sit up there in front of everybody and give dharma talks and everybody is watching your practice and then at the end of the practice period you have to sit up there and respond to a question from everybody in the practice period right now question answer don't stop and think about it you really get exposed it's part of your training it's part of you can't really


be willing to have others see you as you are unless you are willing to be as you are so a lot of this practice is coming to fully embrace this one as it is to be willing to be this one which has been created by all of the karma of our lives and who knows i mean genetics is karma too so we've been created by it's sort of like who we are at this moment if you look down at tasahara creek right now and look at the creek that creek at this moment is is a product of everything that's happened upstream from it and we're just like that how we are at this moment is a product of everything that has happened before now in this life and perhaps in your parents lives as well forms who you are and if there are past lives those too i mean i'm i have to admit that i there's a great deal of


talk about past and future lives in buddhism as a matter of fact my friend robert thurman who practices in the tibetan tradition says well you can't be a buddhist if you don't believe in past and future lives but i have to admit that i'm agnostic about that you know there's a story that i relate to very much of a monk who asked the zen master what happens when you die and the zen master says i don't know well what do you mean you don't know aren't you a zen master well yes but i'm not a dead one yet so i guess i'll find out about past and future lives eventually we'll see this thing we call death is a great mystery we don't know what it is but uh and some of us are often afraid of it you know there's this verse on the that i pointed out to you when i gave this as an instruction yesterday


great is the matter of birth and death all is impermanent quickly passing be awake each moment don't waste this life and i i was at a uh korean practice center um a few years ago and a group of of american zen teachers we were meeting there and we just joined in the practice of whatever temple we're meeting at so their practice is to get up in the morning and make 108 full bows uh they start out i think pretty fast too so they start out they do 25 and then the leader shouts out great is the matter of birth and death and then they do 25 more bows and then the leader shouts out impermanence is all around you another 25 bows be awake each moment another 25 bows don't waste this life they do eight more


bows and you sit down and you're really awake and you really know why you're sitting it's it's a pretty good way to start the day i don't know you think you should do that down here it's pretty um i mean you you there's nobody sleeps in this end over there um so given that all is impermanent uh and quickly passing how do we want to live this life this is this is our practice and what suzuki roshi is saying here is we want to live this life being fully who we are expressing this one as completely as we can now that doesn't mean of course going around and acting out he um he puts it a little more a little more gently than that let's see what he


says here um whatever people may think it's all right just be yourself at least for your teacher this is actual practice your actual life unless you trust your teacher this is rather difficult but if you find out that your teacher's spirit is the same as your spirit then you will be brave enough to continue practicing in this way sometimes you have to argue with your teacher that's okay but you should try to understand him and be ready to give up your argument when you are wrong when you find yourself foolishly sticking to one point of view or when you are making some excuse that is how to be honest with yourself then you will give up okay i surrender i'm sorry you and your teacher are aiming to have perfect communication for a teacher the important point is always to be ready to surrender to his disciple


when a teacher realizes that he is wrong he can say oh you're right i was wrong if your teacher has that kind of spirit you will be encouraged to admit your mistake as well even when it's not so easy you know for most of us it's pretty hard to admit a mistake i don't know there are two kinds of people actually there's some people for whom it's really hard to admit a mistake and there's some people who are never you know who feel like they're always making a mistake and they never accept themselves as they are they're always thinking they're wrong they're to something so there are both kinds there are those for whom it's very hard to admit a mistake and there are those for whom it's very hard to admit they did anything right if you continue this kind of practice people may say you're crazy something is wrong with you but it doesn't matter we're not the same each one of us is different and each one of us has


our own problems fortunately you have the support of others who are practicing with you this is not an umbrella to provide shade to protect you but a space where you can have real practice a space where you can express yourself fully you can open your eyes to appreciate the practice of others and you will find that you are able to communicate without words our way is not to criticize others but to know and appreciate them sometimes you may feel you know someone too well and you have difficulty appreciating them because of your small mind if you continue practicing together and your mind is big enough to expose yourself and to accept others naturally you will become good friends to know your friend is to know something beyond yourself beyond even your friend


you may say that when you are practicing zazen no one can know your practice but for me that is the best time to understand you when you're facing the wall and i see you from behind it is especially easy to understand what kind of practice you have sometimes i walk around the meditation hall so that i can see you this is very interesting if you're dancing or talking or making a big noise it's rather difficult to understand you but when we're sitting together you each sit in your own way it's a big mistake to think that the best way to express yourself is to do whatever you want acting however you please that is not expressing yourself when you have many possible ways of expressing yourself you are not sure what to do so you will


behave superficially if you know what to do exactly and you do it you can express yourself fully that is why we follow forms you may think that you cannot express yourself within a particular form but when we are all practicing together strong people will express themselves in a strong way and kind people will express themselves in a kind way when we pass the sutra cards along the road during service you each do it in your own way the differences among you are easy to see because the form is the same and because we repeat the same thing over and over again we can understand our friend's ways eventually even if your eyes are shut you know oh that was so and so so i ask those of you who've


been practicing in sangha for a while is that true for you do you get to know each other just by the way you do the same things over and over together and have a sense of what your friends are like from just the repetitive things that we do together how we got show to each other on the path you know how we pass the sutra cards how we serve at orioke meals how we receive food at orioke meals how we chant in the zendo how we wear our robes you get to know each other intimately and everybody gets to see you there's no place to hide when i when i um first started sitting at the berkeley zendo um tasahara was quite new and uh it was the only residential practice place we had we


didn't have green gulch yet and we didn't have the city center yet and i said to mel who was a new priest at berkeley zendo at the time i said everybody's talking about tasahara tasahara what's the big deal about tasahara he said well at tasahara we live together we sit together we work together we eat together he said pretty soon everybody can see who you are you might as well see as yourself and you do get the feeling when you're practicing particularly during practice period here that there's no place to hide everybody can see through you you might as well quit pretending because everybody knows you and that's the great gift of practicing in this way you can quit trying to be somebody else and find out what it is to be this particular jewel in


indra's net and the more you can be this particular jewel the more you can reflect back to each other their particular jewels to them so that this vision of indra's net is is really vivid so this is this is the advantage of having rules and rituals without this kind of practice your relationship with people will be very superficial if someone wears a beautiful robe here he rubs his robe and laughs you will think he must be a good priest if someone gives you a beautiful thing you will think he is very kind that she is a wonderful person that kind of understanding is not so good usually our society works in a superficial frivolous way the controlling power is money or some big noise


our eyes and ears are not open or subtle enough to see and hear things most people who visit zen center find it a strange place they don't talk so much they don't even laugh what are they doing those who are accustomed to big noises may not notice but we can communicate without talking so much we may not always be smiling but we feel what others are feeling our mind is always open and we are expressing ourselves fully i want to say something about that smiling when i was practicing in japan at rinso-in and we were being instructed about how to conduct ourselves i had taken a group of 12 women over there to practice because at suzuki roshi's home temple in japan there is a small training hall with 12 12 tatamis amongst typical monks training hall in japan


each monk has a tatami so so the tans as we have up here are as deep as a tatami plus cabinet in the back where bedding is stored and robes and personal items i guess and and that's your living space you know you run one tatami there's somebody else here there's somebody else here so we were 12 of us on 12 tatamis in the monk's training hall but we were not young monks we were middle-aged middle-class women accustomed to running our own lives you know we were most of the women there were professional women because you know they had to have enough money to pay for fare to get over there uh there was some psychotherapists and there were um and there were some some resident zen students uh there was a graphic


artist they were anyhow they were they were professional women mostly um and that kind of close contact um brings up a lot of stuff and that kind of we're so used to having privacy i mean even here at tasahara you can go in your room and close the door maybe you have a roommate but maybe you don't you know um and the original schedule that we had worked out before we went over there was um included a 15-minute tea break in the mid aft during the middle of the afternoon work period well we had not been there very long before that turned into a 45-minute processing break on the advice of our psychotherapist members but you know i mean that was a difficult time and it was a very bonding time


this group we call ourselves the sangha sisters and we have a reunion every year and now um most of the people in that group were zen teachers somewhere or another one of them died one was teaching up in arcata who died um um so it it's but it was kind of interesting it was uh but the thing i was talking about was a smiling part of there was an american monk there who had been living there for several years and he was translating for us and he gave us our instructions when we went down into town like we went to the supermarket to pick up food every day uh when we went down into town we were always to be smiling because we were known in the town as the nuns from rinso-in and so we should be smiling okay uh and then thich nhat hanh came to visit us at green gulch when he first came here his first


teaching in this area in in the san francisco area was done at green gulch farm he didn't have a sangha yet and uh one of his teachings is to have us always have a slight smile on your face and um i read in a book by someone who spent time at plum village that uh he said if i come into the kitchen and ask you what you're doing i'm much happier if you say breathing and smiling thai than if you say chopping carrots thai so he wanted people to be aware of their breathing and smiling as their mindfulness practice and of course i've been doing qigong with with li ping uh for the past week and one of her constant instructions is smile on your face um i find that i am very conscious of that in zazen i keep coming back to it


as a point of practice i didn't mention it in zazen instruction yesterday it softened for one thing i tend um to carry a lot of tension in my jaw i have uh noted that over time and if i smile it it relieves that tension in my jaw i don't clench my teeth anymore and i'm not talking about a big grin and you're not you're not trying to show anybody anything you're trying to soften your own state of mind it affects your mind if you have a slight smile if you soften this jaw it affects your actual state of mind so since he mentioned smiling i thought i would throw that in um we may not always be smiling but we feel what others are feeling our mind is always open and we are expressing ourselves fully well i hope so he's making a statement here that


may be true and when it is it's really good and when it isn't it's the direction we're headed we can extend this practice to city life and be good friends with one another this is not difficult when you decide to be honest with yourself and express yourself fully without expecting anything just being yourself and being ready to understand others is how to extend your practice into everyday life we don't know what will happen if you fail to express yourself fully on each moment you may regret it later because you expect some future time you miss your opportunity and you are misunderstood by your friend do not wait to express yourself fully so now i'd like to entertain questions comments discussion


if anyone would like to bring up something yes most of what you talked about today dealt with monastics and monastic practices most of us have never been monastics what is your advice to i still think rick that in in your everyday life whether you're a monastic that this kind of help that you get is um is for monastic practice but the point of finding out who you are and expressing it fully is not limited to monastics monastics have built in a lot of a lot of aids and goads to do that so those who are living a lay life have to look at their own life and see where they are stifling their true expression


and how they can best express themselves in what's whatever situation they're in i i do realize that there are some constraints in um let's say you work in an office um there are some constraints about uh how fully you can how honestly you can be yourself um but you know he's not talking about anything radical he's just he's um because he says it's not about just doing whatever you want to do or acting out or something it's about discovering what is this i mean indra's net is not just jewels who are monastic indra's net is all beings without exception and for us to realize this is a jewel in the universe with something to offer with something to give and what is what is this jewel and what does it have


to give and can we receive the reflections that come to us from all around us and see all of the other beings around us as jewels as well or do we get caught in our idea of ourself or our idea of what we want from somebody else and fail to see the jewel there i think this is what about i mean what he's mentioning of course since he's talking to students here he's talking about how how the various forms which a lot of people find you know what the hell is that about you know what difference does it make what foot you step in the zendo what difference does it make how you pass out the sutra cards you know what difference does it make how you bow on the wall um you know don't tell me what to do um i remember katagiri roshi saying once very hard teach americans sin


americans say don't tell me what to do and sin is about just shut your mouth and do it very hard teach americans sin um but this is a courage is taking a little different point here than just shut your mouth and do it i mean he does sometimes say just do it you know uh but he's taking a little different point here because he's saying um when you're mistaken you should admit it particularly if you can trust your teacher to admit his mistakes when he makes them or her mistakes when she makes them uh so he's saying that all of us none of us should take the position i know what the right way is and do it my way you know um we have certain forms here and some of them are traditional japanese forms and then


over the years various of the teachers here have modified forms and set up particular forms for tasahara i mean even between tasahara green gulch and the city center we can't seem to stay precisely on the same page but at each place we have we have our agreed upon forms and we use them as supports for our practice um you can also set up your own forms in your own personal situation your agreement you and jill can agree we're going to do it this way let's let's try doing it this way see what happens you know um and in your workplace you know i bet you have some pretty standard forms that you follow you just don't see them in that way but um most most human


i don't know how i'm not a sociologist but but most human groups develop agreed upon forms for their interactions and they may or may not be liberating but you can you can kind of look at what the forms that you live with and are they an opportunity to watch how you interact with them today i'll go along with them and tomorrow you know screw you and what's going on here that that's creating that and is that is that helpful or not can you find a way to express yourself within um within the forms of your actual situation what i just think he's saying is


if i go around and everybody is trying to sit the same zazen posture i agree with him i can see a great deal of what's happening with each person by looking at their zazen posture and some of some people have perfect posture but it's really stiff and i can see that someone is trying to look like a good monk you know they're not really settled and at ease in their posture they're trying to to they have a picture they're trying to fit themselves to instead of finding out how this posture expresses their own uh energy um and you can see some people coming in and doing the forms just perfectly and they're thinking as i mentioned the other day in my talk boy i'm doing this right i hope everybody notices i'm doing this right you know uh for those of you who were at that talk i had a little i had a little insight


about i was talking about the moments when that happens to me you know oh boy i put that incense in straight didn't i boy i'm pretty sharp no that the next thing i do is as i'm walking around the mat i stub my toe on the mat and kick it or do something awkward uh right away to catch i mean i did something the other day and i turned around and banged my head on a branch you know i mean sometimes i get a little rough on myself to catch my attention but uh in that talk he was talking about uh teacher and student are working together to uh express egolessness and sometimes ego gets in there and i'm thinking those moments when i say boy wasn't that nice i can call those my ego mourners moments their egolessness moments and their eager mourners moments um so that will help me to notice them more more freely yes i find that i often mistake


who i am with my habits and i've actually my practice has been to let go of what i think i am and so expressing what am i expressing myself often it's a habit that i'm expressing and that's not really who i am so i think um it's difficult to know what what should i express yeah if you try to think about it the fact is that you're expressing it all the time that's that's the thing but sometimes we we try to squeeze it into something we think we should be and and it it looks squeezed somehow it doesn't look natural it doesn't look like actually expressing yourself but i think the question you raise is what is this that i'm expressing is a very fundamental question for all of us this question of sitting with what is this is i would recommend to everyone not even who is this who already you know assumes well that's a


person for sure and what else but just to be totally open what is this sitting on this cushion what is this speaking now what is this saying hello to my friend no what is this if we should see each being as buddha can we see this being as buddha if we can see each being as a jewel in indra's net can we see this one as a jewel in indra's net what does it look like if it's just a jewel in indra's net yes do you think it's always possible for us to uh know like if we're being squeezed no i don't think we necessarily always know but we keep we keep we keep facing in the direction


of expressing our true self we keep facing in the direction of being curious about what is the true self what is the true self of this one is this it is this it is this it and sometimes it feels like ah that's it and sometimes it feels like this doesn't feel right but we notice we pay attention to that and we and we move toward those ones that feel oh this feels right and we move away from those that oh that doesn't feel like me that feels like me trying to be some idea i have so exactly um noticing those moment when it feels like oh this is me is how we how we begin to move in that direction


and we do it together with friends and if we find a teacher with a teacher who will reflect you back to yourself quite quite readily and that's helpful and the people around you if you're practicing with others this is why sangha is referred to as one of the three jewels um they will reflect you back to yourself and you'll see oh that was uncomfortable i think that's really me oh yeah i do that don't i hmm maybe i don't want to do that maybe i want to watch that no we have all kinds of habits that we've collected over the years of our life all kinds of ideas of who we think we are but we don't know for sure who who we are and that's


actually what we're trying to find a way to express is you know the real the real me what is the real me when i drop my ideas and just be myself and of course it's a lot easier said than done yeah but nobody said it was easy it's just simple but it's not easy this practice i think my time is up thank you very much they are intention they are intention